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Food Lion stocks pantry at new soup kitchen to put slogan into action

SALISBURY — Food Lion President Beth Newlands Campbell hefted boxes of green beans, peanut butter and cereal Wednesday at the new Rowan Helping Ministries Robertson-Stanback Center, continuing a partnership started 25 years ago by Ralph Ketner.

As executives and store managers stocked the new pantry with 7,400 pounds of donated food, Newlands Campbell said Food Lion cares about the city where Ketner helped start the grocery chain.

“Today is about a longstanding partnership with Rowan Helping Ministries and it’s about giving back to the community and really, where we started some 50 years ago,” she said. “It all started with Mr. Ketner, and we are just following in his footsteps.”

Ketner, who co-founded Food Lion in 1957, made the first homeless shelter possible in 1989 when he pledged to pay for half the cost of construction for the first Rowan Helping Ministries building and raise the rest in three days. That original building at 226 N. Long St. will become the Ralph W. Ketner Crisis Assistance Center once renovations are complete.

The homeless shelter and soup kitchen, now called Jeannie’s Kitchen, have moved across the street to the Robertson-Stanback Center, which opens Monday. A public open house is set for 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Food Lion donated about $6,300 in food Wednesday, enough to make about 6,500 meals. The company stocked the pantry, cooler and freezer that serve Jeannie’s Kitchen, where staff and volunteers will prepare breakfast and supper for shelter guests, as well as the noon meal for anyone who comes to eat.

That’s about 300 meals per day, said Kyna Grubb, executive director for Rowan Helping Ministries.

“They completely filled our shelves,” Grubb said. “We will be serving this food on Monday.”

Rowan Helping Ministries has been sending drivers to pick up food from Food Lion stores for more than 20 years. It would have taken weeks and a major, community-wide food drive to provide as much food as Food Lion donated in one morning, Grubb said.

Food Lion contributed $175,000 to the $6 million capital fund drive for Rowan Helping Ministries that includes the new building, renovations to the original site and additional transitional housing units. The original food pantry at 226 N. Long St., which will continue to provide food for needy families to take home and prepare, will be renamed the Food Lion Food Center after renovations.

As Food Lion execs were hauling boxes and stocking shelves, the company was simultaneously launching a new strategy with the slogan, “You can count on Food Lion every day.”

J.J. Fleeman, senior vice president for strategy and business development, said the Rowan Helping Ministries event showed the slogan in action.

“Strategy is more than just words. Strategy is about action,” Fleeman said. “Strategy is about making sure that you have strong commitments, and one of our key commitments inside of that strategy is a local focus, not only in our neighborhood stores but in our neighborhoods.”

Food Lion has started focusing the company’s community outreach efforts on ending hunger, Fleeman said.

“Community is something that is very important to us and more importantly, to focus on hunger in the community,” he said.

While Food Lion aims to provide easy, fresh and affordable food, many people still go hungry, Fleeman said. During the past year, Food Lion has stepped up its efforts to focus on community and support those in need, he said.

Giving back to the community by feeding hungry people is a natural fit for Food Lion, said Kevin Hill, vice president for retail operations in the Salisbury area.

“Hunger is a real issue in America,” Hill said.

Food Lion wants to do its part to help, he said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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